Coming in cold hurt India

Coming in cold hurt India

Visitors top order comes a cropper in the absence of warm-up tie

On any other day, Laxman would have played that shot even straight out of his bed, but the extra bounce in the Sabina Park pitch deceived him. Openers Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni too faced a similar situation, struggling to middle the ball and looking edgy at the crease.

The Sabina Park pitch was more spiteful than any other track the Indians have encountered in the recent past, and the performance of Indian top order, except Rahul Dravid, brings us back to the need of having sufficient warm-up matches before a tour.

Like Dravid, ll three of Vijay, Laxman and Dhoni have not appeared in any competitive match since the Indian Premier League, while Mukund was making his international debut in Kingston.

They might not have got sufficient time to polish their skills between the IPL and the first Test, and no amount of nets can replace a real match situation. So, there was a case for helping them ease into the tour through a warm-up game as playing a Test match without proper practice can be disastrous.

The rustiness of India’s top order was obvious when they were reduced to 85 for six in the first innings, and they could have been in an embarrassing situation but for the gumption of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh.

In the second innings also, the Indian top order couldn’t exactly negotiate the West Indian bowling on the Sabina Park pitch, and it required an epic Dravid effort to save the day.

Match practice

A practice match would have gone a long way in shaking the cobwebs off, but the authorities strangely decided against it. Dravid was clear in his views that having a tour game will help players get into the groove.

“As a result of the way cricket is played these days, and just the amount of cricket that is played, it (practice match) has become a necessary evil. It’s tough on the young kids, especially for someone who comes in without playing a single game and is pushed straightway into a Test match,” Dravid said.

This Indian team has a lot of youngsters like Raina, Virat Kohli and Mukund, who are feeling their way into the unforgiving and demanding world of Test cricket.  Having a practice match before the tour also offers another advantage. In the relaxed atmosphere of a tour game, they could have tapped the brains of Dravid, Laxman and Dhoni, players who have walked before them and experienced the gruelling nature of Tests.

It could have been a fantastic chance for the young names to learn from the legends, and Dravid agreed. “I had played a practice game on this ground and there was so much of learning.

“When I went to England for the first time in ‘96, we played six or seven practice games, and that is where the learning is done. I sat down and interacted with the Tendulkars, Azharuddins and the Manjrekars in a less stressful environment compared to Test cricket.

“There is no denying the fact that Test cricket is really stressful, for juniors, seniors, everyone. You are so caught up in it. But in a side game, you are much more relaxed. It gave me the opportunity to talk to these people, observe how they go about their games; it was a lot of learning,” the seasoned Dravid said. Hope the bigwigs are listening.

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